I was 12 years old the moment food became the enemy. It has taken 22 more years to realize that food, the right food is the ally.
I remember the very moment my opinion of myself changed. I was sitting in my middle school health class, watching a movie with Calista Flockhart- The Secret Life of Mary Margaret. Before this movie, I didn’t even think about my body or the way I looked. I didn’t even know I was supposed to be ashamed of my looks until this movie was shown to my class. This movie was a ‘How-To” for eating disorders.
The moment this movie was over, I remember thinking that I wasn’t attractive enough, that I wasn’t pretty enough, and I needed to be ‘skinny’. I was 12 years old! Why in the world was I even thinking these thoughts? I remember starting to deprive myself whenever I was around the other kids at school, drinking Slim Fast chocolate shakes and starving myself until I just couldn’t take it anymore.
I will never forget the feeling of my heart stopping dead in its tracks when I saw my dad walk into the Middle School Counselor’s office. She had called him to talk to her about my eating ‘disorder’. I use this word lightly -not because I truly believe I had an eating disorder- in the term we are all used to- but in the way I describe my sons’ playroom – The playroom is in disorder.
Once I started high school, I remember running, running A Lot. I hated running. But, I remember the guilt that came with it. I remember feeling guilty if I didn’t workout longer than 45 minutes or run that day. The guilt got ahold of me so strongly that it became unbearable. I remember the feeling of being out of control. I remember the negative self-talk and the feeling of not looking like my friends. I remember my own body shaming and disappointment in the way I looked.
In college, I remember buying my first cookbook. I remember listening to my first podcast (if that is what it was called back them) about nutrition and health by Dr. Andrew Weil (now known as the Origins guy). I also remember watching my first documentary, Super Size Me; the legendary documentary by Morgan Spurlock. At this point, I started to really use my body and treat it like it was the only one I was ever going to get. No more McDonalds! I signed up for my first of 13 triathlons. I trained and ran my first half marathon. I remember cooking a lot, learning a lot about food, and starting to troll the local book store for nutritional advice, and grocery shop at the local Whole Foods.
Moving in with my husband had us both learning together. We became Clean-Eaters after watching Food, Inc the documentary from 2008. I started cooking from Tosca Reno’s cookbooks as much as I could- from scratch; mostly fish and chicken because of the horror stories I was hearing about red-meat at the time. This was probably the time in my life where food started to actually make sense.
I became a personal trainer and aerobic instructor for the local gyms leading at least three classes of either cycle, yoga or a weight lifting class 3 times a day. I look back at this time in my life – I should have felt great. I should have been in the best shape of my life. I should have been flaunting my toned body all over the place, but I don’t remember being or even feeling that great.
I do remember being taken to the emergency room for severe dehydration and exhaustion.
Once I became a mom, I remember trying to make the best decisions I possibly could for our family. I started reading about the effects of sugar in the system; liver disease, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, obesity. My husband and I decided that limiting the sugar in our diets to fruits and the occasional treat was the best and one of the most important Food decisions we could make. I still get a lot of laughs because my boys think Pedialyte popsicles are delicious and Pedialyte is ‘juice’. I have happy, healthy boys that believe in the value of food, know that there are foods that aren’t good or healthy for them and they think about how their food decisions can effect their bodies. I am proud of that. Now, do they get excited to go hangout with friends because they might get something they normally don’t- of course– They are kids! But, they are the kids that ask for broccoli, ask questions when there isn’t a vegetable on their dinner plate, eat a salad and they know when their food choices don’t make them feel good.
I know this recap makes me sound crazy, but keep in mind this has been 22 years of growth toward understanding my wants and needs. I am finally comfortable enough to share this personal, outrageous summary.
Why am I sharing these very personal moments with you all?In the last 22 years, I have never felt better about myself. I have never felt more confident in my own skin. I made the researched decision to become plant-based (no animal products; focus on vegetables, whole, unprocessed grains and fruits, nuts) to start caring for myself and for my family in the most primal way. I want to live for a long time, enjoying all the moments without being or feeling sick from hypertension, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, or obesity. If I can prevent it, I want to try. It is important to me to be as active as I possibly can in the life that I am currently living. I want to be around when my son cures cancer 🙂 I want to be able to travel the world with my healthy husband when we retire.
After 22 years of focusing on food (what to eat, what not to eat, how to eat, when to eat) I have finally found something that doesn’t stress me out, doesn’t consume me, and makes me proud to share with others.